In an unanticipated turn of events, more than 44 people were killed during Israel’s religious festival held in the month of April. In the crush, more than 150 individuals were hurt as people thronged to celebrate the Lag B’Omer festival which takes place every year at the foot of Mount Neron. (It is also known as Lag BaOmer.) This celebration saw thousands of orthodox Jews gather for a night-long celebration, one of the largest festivals in the country since the beginning of the pandemic. It was possible because the country has seen a successful vaccination drive and therefore, has lifted several restrictions it had imposed earlier.
The situation went out of control in a matter of seconds. Witnesses stood shocked as it quickly turned into a stampede. Paramedics and ambulances reached the scene soon after the situation became desperate to handle the chaotic scene. CPR was performed on many and emergency resources were laid out for the bodies. Helicopter service was also deployed to carry the injured to the nearest hospital while the military launched a search-and-rescue mission to help anyone left stranded in the situation.
The ground strewn with bodies was a disheartening scene causing one to stop and wonder how the celebration could have spiralled out of control this rapidly. Several bodies remain unidentified and several bereaved families were seen looking for their family members. Many children were also caught in the chaos leading to a large number of casualties. Media estimates place the number of people around 100,000. Social media was taken by storm by images and videos of people crammed in narrow passageways, all pushed into each other. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the site later, after the tragedy, called the deaths a ‘heavy disaster’ that has shaken the country to its core.
The police were in charge of the public security at this site and are facing worldwide criticism for a severe failure on their part. To handle the mayhem, they asked people to disperse and evacuate the site although it couldn’t be executed very efficiently. The police have launched their own investigation to explore what could have gone wrong.
A site of gaiety, it turned into an appalling reality for all present there. As people were asphyxiated on every corner, the air of celebration was turned into a cry for help. The country will take time to come out from the shadows of this ordeal that has caused everyone to stop and pray for the citizens of the nation present in the event.